Psalm 23 – a psalm of assurance or trust.
p. 45: “By inviting us to receive life as God’s gracious gift and to live in humble submission to God and in accordance with God’s purposes, Psalm 23 commends a way of living that might be called the lifestyle of praise, or perhaps the “way of the righteous”.”
In U. S. a “funeral” psalm, in the rest of world, primarily agricultural, it is daily life connection with shepherds. Healing, exorcism, deliverance, even political – as a condemnation of tyranny
1 A psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
2 In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.
5 You set a table before me
in front of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me
all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the LORD
for endless days.
Jewish Study Bible notes: “God, the divine shepherd-king, leads his people to nourishment and safety, keeping them alive and protecting them…. Some scholars now interpret the psalm as an exilic or post-exilic portrait of a new exodus, from the exile to the return in the land of Israel.” In this view the meal takes place at the Temple.
Schaefer p. 58 – God begins as shepherd in the poem, ends as a sheik / host.
Mays p. 116: “Are the Hebrew verbs to be translated in the present tense, making the psalm a statement of present experience, or in the future, making it a statement of hopes?” “Is the person who speaks through the psalm an individual or corporate personality?”
Verse One notes
There is a long OT tradition that associates shepherds / kings, royalty. Begins with the tradition of David who was out tending the sheep when Samuel came calling at his father’s house, looking for the next king of Israel. Continues with the idea of God Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Kings in Israel called on to live up to the ideal – most did not.
The psalm promises that if we trust in the LORD we shall not lack for the things we NEED. What we WANT is another matter!
Mays p. 118: Israel did not ‘lack’ or ‘want’ in the desert (Deut. 2:7)
Verses Two and Three notes
p. 48: “The pastoral imagery in verses 2-3 has often been understood as communicating primarily a sense of tranquility, rest, and repose. This has been the case especially with the phrases “lie down,” ‘still waters,” and “restores my soul.” To be sure, this dimension of meaning is not totally absent from verses 2-3 – sheep (and people) do need rest and time to recover from the rigors of the day – but the primary affirmation of verses 203 is that the shepherd provides the sheep with the basic necessities of life.”
Food and water, led to them by safe and direct pathways.
Verse 4 notes
p. 49: “This poetic line receives further emphasis by the fact that it is exactly the central line of the poem. As is often the case in Hebrew poetry, what is central structurally is also central theologically – in this case, the affirmation of the unfailing presence of God and God’s protection for life, even in the midst of the most threatening of circumstances.”
Darkest valley – ravine-like streambeds through which shepherd and sheep would often travel. Can also mean shadow of death – emphasizing the more extreme dangers of life.
Tanach / JPS: “The morbid “valley” is a characterization of all exiles. Alternatively, it is a place so dangerous that it is as dark and forbidding as the grave.”
Rod and staff – to prod and to protect the sheep
Verses 5 and 6 notes
McCann says that at this point the metaphor switches from sheep-shepherd to guest-host. Here the images are table / food, cup / drink, and hospitality, protection
Schaefer p. 58: “Two scenes are parallel; the pasture, water, and restoring the flock corresponds to the table, the ointment, and wine.”
The enemy is present but impotent
Setting?: temple as sanctuary? McCann p. 51: “The resulting picture is one in which psalmist and enemies have been reconciled, and it is in keeping with the perspective of the songs of praise, which regularly invite all peoples and nations, and indeed all creation, to worship God.”
Should be a strong word than “follow” me, perhaps “pursue” me.
Psalm 23 for today
A political tract
God alone is sovereign. God alone provides for us – with gifts of all that we need. Not earned. Grace
Living in an attitude of grace / being grateful leads us to a sense of solidarity with all others.
BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR THE PSALMS
Alter, Robert. The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. (W. W. Norton, New York, 2007).
Brown, William P. Psalms. Part of the Interpreting Biblical Texts series edited by Gene Tucker. (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2010).
Clifford, Richard J. Psalms 73-150. Part of the Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries edited by Patrick Miller. (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2003).
Dahood, Mitchell. Psalms I – 1-50: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Volume 16 of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W. F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1965).
———————– Psalms Ii – 51-100: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Volume 17 of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W. F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman. (Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 1968).
———————– Psalms III – 101-150: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Volume 17A of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W. F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman. (Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 1970).
Krauss, Hans~Joachim. Theology of the Psalms. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Keith Crim. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1992).
———————– Psalms 1 ~ 59. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Hilton C. Oswald. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993).
———————– Psalms 60 ~ 150. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Hilton C. Oswald. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993).
Mays, James. L. Psalms. Part of the Interpretation Bible Commentary series edited by James L. Mays, Patrick D. Miller and Paul J. Achtemeier. (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1994).
McCann Jr., J. Clinton. Great Psalms of the Bible. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2009).
Schaefer, Konrad. Psalms. Part of the Berit Olam Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry edited by David W. Cotter. (Liturgical Press, Collegeville: MN, 2001)
Webster, Brian L. and David R. Beach. The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms: Key Insights for Reading God’s Word. (Zondervan, Grand Rapids: MI, 2010).